Simplifying General Conference

I love, love, love General Conference.

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I look forward to it more than anything in the world.

Well, nearly anything.

I must admit that I really looked forward to marrying my husband and I was quite thrilled about
pushing each of my babies out after being pregnant for nine months…but General Conference
seriously excites me just as much! 🙂

I love soaking in the incredibly inspiring and spiritually uplifting words that the leaders of the
church have prepared just for us. Quite often, in fact, it seems as if they have prepared their
remarks just for me.

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Since having kids, however, I have learned that it is somewhat difficult to listen to General
Conference as effectively as I would like to. All that I want to do is sit and listen to eight hours
of talks in complete peace and serenity without any interruption. Additionally, it would be quite
nice if each of my children (Mason included) would sit still and reverent for every second of
those hours and be able to quote the prophet word for word at the conclusion of his talk. I mean
really, is that too much to ask? 🙂

Apparently, it is way too much to ask.

For the past few years I have bent over backwards in an effort to help my kids get the most out
of conference. I have printed out conference packets, bingo games, and endless church-related
coloring pages. I have built immaculate tents out of blankets right in front of the TV in an effort
to reenact General Conference in King Benjamin’s time. I have made apostle matching games
and various file-folder games. I have made little treat bags with pictures of the different apostles
on them, the idea being that when that particular apostle spoke the kids would get to eat the treat
from his bag. The kids have decorated music batons to lead the music with the conductor during
the songs. I have searched the internet far and wide for any idea to help keep the kids occupied
and focused during those long eight hours of instruction.

Where did all this preparation get me?

Absolutely nowhere.

By the time the opening song had commenced, the kids were rolling around and trying to
smother each other with the blankets that I had so carefully made into a tent. By the time the
invocation was completed, the packets that I had so vigilantly put together were torn into pieces
and crayons were scattered all over the carpet. Apparently, my kids aren’t as mature as the other
nameless kids around the world using the exact same General Conference packets. My kids
didn’t really care to examine the color of tie that the prophet was wearing.

What is wrong with my children?

The conducting batons were quickly used as beating sticks. The stickers that the kids had used to
decorate their batons with were stuck all over the wall (or inserted into their mouths because they
somehow resembled chewing gum). The treat bags were a complete disaster. Every time a mere
seventy or (heaven forbid) a woman spoke, the kids would complain relentlessly. They could
care less about the talks…they just wanted their stinkin’ treats! 🙂

Now, I realize that this scenario that I have just painted makes my kids seem like spoiled rotten
brats. They aren’t. They were simply being kids forced to be something that they obviously
weren’t meant to be. I fully expected my children to be quiet and focused for eight hours. Why
wouldn’t they be? I bent over backwards trying to entertain them in the proper way! My kids
were supposed to soak in every single word that was spoken and become one step closer to being
translated. Right?!

Seriously…those General Conference packets were meant to keep my children focused!

I learned something from the past few years. I have, somewhat hesitantly, concluded that
General Conference packets aren’t for everyone. All kids are not created equal. A 3-year-
old down the street may find it absolutely entertaining to color ties and create toilet paper roll
apostles…but mine is perfectly content in playing with his miniature pirate ship. My kids are still
quite young. Honestly, until they are old enough to read and write completely independently, I
think that I may put a halt on printing out packets.

Keeping these realizations in mind, I made a conscious choice to simplify my efforts this past
weekend. Translation: I prepared absolutely nothing for my kids. No packets were printed. I
made zero plans whatsoever and decided to merely go with the flow. It worked wonders. Who
would have thought that simply not putting forth any effort whatsoever would have ended up
being the most successful tactic?

I was able to listen to nearly every single word this past weekend!

It was absolutely wonderful.

I gave my children their agency. I did, however, make sure they were in the room when the
prophet spoke. Ironically, with this new found General Conference agency that my kids were
granted, they ended up playing right in front of the TV for the most part. I sat on the floor,
turned the volume up incredibly loud, and was able to listen to nearly every word as my children
played at my feet (or on top of me).

Truly, lowering my expectations was my key to success. I experienced no frustration at the fact
that the packets that I had printed out were not being used correctly. I wasn’t forced to miss
half of each talk as a result of trying to explain to my kids that they couldn’t eat a certain treat
because it wasn’t the “proper time”. Rather, I generously threw food in their faces whenever they
asked for it and I told them to eat, enjoy, and leave me alone. 😉 I didn’t care that my kids were
participating in secular activities (playing with non-church-related toys). There were crayons all
over the carpet, like before, but it didn’t bother me in the slightest because I allowed them to be
there.

My kids were happy. They loved General Conference! Lizzie was even able to tell me that
President Monson talked about being obedient. What more could I ask for? And honestly, I
don’t really care what color of tie he was wearing. 🙂

In conclusion, I have learned that simplifying General Conference and lowering my expectations
have turned out to be one of my best mothering decisions.

You may look down on me for “giving up”. But I don’t care! As is always the case, what works
for one family may not work for another. Our casual watching of General Conference this past
weekend was a definite success for us! 🙂

Packets may make their appearance again in the future…but I am happily taking a break for now.

🙂

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One thought on “Simplifying General Conference

  1. I love conference! The messages this time were especially soothing to my soul. Part of me loves all the kid preparation, but a few day before conference I realized that I couldn’t maintain 50 different activities for the kids AND get something out of the experience. I really needed some questions answered, so I did one activity, a conference train, threw in some snacks and called it good. I agree 100% that casual conference is the way to go until the kids can really pay attention and get something out of it.

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